By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe
No Spanish garden or apartment terrace should be without fruit trees or plants. Even in less than a square metre it is possible to grow alpine or ordinary strawberries in a strawberry barrel or window box and citrus, peach, apple, pear, pomegranate, avocado and fig trees on dwarf root stocks grow perfectly well in containers provided you fill the containers with a rich in nutrient and water retaining/ well draining soil mix. Our experimental container orchard has done well.
In a larger garden it does not require much imagination to plant a dozen varieties as trees or plants and be able to harvest ones own ecological fruit crops on every day of the year.
Try the following for starters – almond, apricot, fig, lemon, mandarin, orange, persimmon, peach, plum, strawberries , raspberries, walnut. If you combine the above with a vegetable raised bed or patch even a moderate sized garden can become your daily market for the fresh healthy fruit and vegetables increasingly recommended by medical authorities. Spanish readers will immediately recognise what we are saying –i.e. return to the back yard or small holding of our grandparents – for what we recommend does not require a large orchard. Indeed, as many inland expatriates with 10.000 metre plots have discovered, how does one cope with the ripening fruit of several hundred trees when Spaniards are feeding surplus oranges to their sheep and goats as it is more economic to do so than pay to harvest the fruit for very low market prices.
Luckily many fruit trees have multiple benefits so they easily fit into mixed gardens for they are among the best trees for spring blossom, then the colouring fruit add interest followed by the vivid autumn leaf colours of the deciduous trees and early winter colours of persimmons and pomegranates well after the leaves have fallen.
As mentioned in our earlier columns and described in detail in our popular book Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain there are now many natural, ecological and organic ways of fertilising and spraying fruit trees bushes and plants against pests and diseases so one does not need to be concerned about residual chemicals on the skins. Eating perfectly ripe fruit direct from the tree bush or plant is one of the delights of gardening in Spain . Fresh raspberries from May to October and in a few weeks time tangerines are regular pre breakfast snacks when working early in our holistic garden. They are irresistible. Thinking about citrus trees if you select early mid and late season varieties it is possible to harvest edible mandarins from October to May and a mature perpetual flowering/fruiting lemon tree can supply a years supply of lemons for gin and tonics and lemon sorbes.
By the way the book includes over seventy fruits so there are plenty to chose from whether gardening on the Costa, in inland valleys or a thousand metres up on mountainsides. For convenience Dick’s recently published book includes details of the beneficial vitamins and minerals etc., found in a wide range of fruits.
Autographed copies of Clodagh and Dicks books can now be purchased via their website www.gardeninginspain.com as well as unsigned copies from high street and internet bookshops.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe www.gardeninginspain.com November 2011.